LOOK: ‘Snakes in the Cityʽ hosts on a mission to help Durbanites fear snakes less
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DURBAN – Simon Keys and Siouxsie Gillett, the hosts of reality television show Snakes in the City have been rescuing snakes in the Durban area for the past seven years.
The snake rescues feature on their show. Keys said one of the challenges that they face is an irrational fear of snakes by residents.
“It’s called ophidiophobia, it’s quite remarkable that people living in this lush tropical climate aren’t aware of how many snakes they are literally living next to. Yet when faced with a snake in their garden, home or workplace, they’re petrified. We have to empathise with them and try to help them get over this fear.”
Gillett said that some people say the fear of snakes is evolutionary and people instinctively avoid snakes through fear that they could kill us.
“We see the bad rap they get in everything… From cultural myths and beliefs, to children’s stories and even in film. That brave adventuring character Indiana Jones got all icky when faced with a tomb full of them. Parents also play a role in passing this fear down the generations. Snakes aren’t cuddly or fluffy. People often assume that a snake's skin is slimy which pushes them further down the likeable scale.”
Gillett added that after capturing a snake they offer residents the opportunity to interact with snakes.
“I would say we are able to “convert” people 75% of the time. It’s truly remarkable seeing the realisation that these creatures are quite beautiful and for the most part just want to keep to themselves.”
Gillett said that education is key in understanding that snakes play an important role in our environment.
“In reality most snakes are not dangerous, and are doing far more good than bad in our ecosystems. They are an important part of the food chain – snakes for example are able to control rat populations very efficiently. People often kill snakes in reaction to the fear they have, but this is devastating to ecosystems and the environment. Every creature and plant has a role to play on this planet, and so people should be thinking more holistically.”
Keys said that recent frog breeding leads to increased snake activity.
“At the moment there’s a lot more water around after the recent rains. That means a lot more frogs, all busy breeding. Because of this, snake activity increases because there’s more food, and therefore more human encounters.”
Gillett added that we should be aware of snakes, but not afraid of them.
“Snakes will always try to avoid you first. But they are more active when it’s warm and wet, so stay alert and watch where you walk.”
Keys warned residents that flooding washes snakes out of their hiding places. “People should watch out for log piles, building rubble, old tyres, under houses or sheds, places where snakes could go to keep dry.”
The pair said that they were available to capture and relocate snakes free of charge, while filming Snakes in the City.